Fiji must stop the torture and police brutality

We must uphold human rights everywhere.

Recently, Amnesty International released a report detailing the widespread allegations of torture and police brutality in Fiji. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was met with defensiveness and claims of bias from the Fijian Government.

But as the report makes clear, there has long been a culture of impunity and tolerance for violence – particularly for people accused or convicted of crimes, large or small.

Fiji recently became a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, and even hosted a workshop on the Convention and inhuman or degrading treatment in October of this year. That was a small step in the right direction since the first democratic election in seven years, but the Fijian Government is still a long way from walking the walk. Amnesty’s meticulously researched report shows that police, prison staff and the military regularly engage in torture, sexual violence, beatings and attacks by dogs. These tactics are used to extract confessions from suspects or as part of a campaign of intimidation.  

One of the biggest challenges in Fiji is the lack of oversight of the Police and military. The military, in particular, is widely regarded as being above the law.  People have died after being beaten in custody.

For example, the 2013 constitution grants immunity for all coup-related acts carried out by security forces up until 2014 and there are a number of stalled investigations into torture from that period.

There are some positive signs, including more human rights training and some efforts to improve accountability.

Given that our Government has been re-kindling its once frosty relations with Fiji after Bainamarama’s coup, it’s all the more important that we speak out about issues like this. I am calling for our Government to raise these issues directly with the Fijian Government.